Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for PRIMARY INDUSTRIES and WATER, Ms COURTNEY.
During budget Estimates last week we asked you about the number of greyhounds that have been killed and those that appear to have simply disappeared. Your answer indicated that you are more concerned about the industry than the dogs. We put to you the damning testimony of former Animal Welfare Advisory Committee member Malcolm Caulfield, who resigned in disgust over what he describes as deep-seated problems with your Government's approach to animal welfare. You batted that off as if the word of the principal solicitor of Animals Australia means nothing. Perhaps most disturbingly, you appeared to crab-walk away from your party's commitment to bring in tranche 2 of changes to the Animal Welfare Act, based on the advice of the now hobbled Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. Do you intend to break that promise made by your predecessor to all the animals abused over this island and to the many Tasmanians who care for them?
Madam Speaker, once again we have the Greens coming into this place and misrepresenting the conversations and questions that came across the table last week at budget Estimates.
Let me be quite clear. This Liberal Government takes animal welfare and compliance with the state's animal welfare legislation very seriously, whether across farm and production animals, pets or the racing industry. We are committed to ensuring animal welfare standards are upheld, no matter what jurisdiction they are under. We have increased funding for animal welfare. We have strengthened Biosecurity Tasmania and we have increased the funding to the RSPCA to assist with their services.
Ms O'Connor - Answer the question. Are you walking away from further improvements to the act?
Madam SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor.
Ms COURTNEY - In 2015 we strengthened and modernised the Animal Welfare Act.
Ms O'Connor - Twelve of the 60 recommendations.
Madam SPEAKER - Order. Please proceed, minister.
Ms COURTNEY - Thank you, Madam Speaker. We have modernised the Animal Welfare Act, we have cracked down on offenders, we have increased penalties for aggravated cruelty to up five years, and we have strengthened penalties across the board -
Madam SPEAKER - Order. Could I have a bit of calm on this side too, please?
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker, under standing order 45 going to relevance. The question was whether the minister intends to bring in tranche 2 of the changes to the Animal Welfare Act or has she walked away from the commitment of her predecessor?
Madam SPEAKER - As I have said before, you understand my frustration with this standing order. I have no idea what she is going to come out with next but hopefully it will be an answer.
Ms COURTNEY - Thank you, Madam Speaker. It was a question relating to animal welfare and specifically regarding future plans. I am outlining what the Government has done, what it is currently doing and what we will continue to do.
This Government is committed to animal welfare in this state and we have demonstrated that through my predecessor and the strengthening of the Animal Welfare Act. We have seen it through increased funding for Biosecurity Tasmania and strengthening the RSPCA, and we continue our commitment to support ORI in its role of supporting the racing industry as well as increasing funding for GAP for Tasracing to ensure greyhounds have a future post-racing. I reject the assertion from the Greens that somehow this side of the Chamber is not focused on animal welfare because we are. We have cracked down on offenders, we have increased penalties, and we have sent a strong message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated in Tasmania.
I do not have the Hansard in front of me at the moment, but my recollection of last week was that I said we will continue to focus on animal cruelty in Tasmania and continue to ensure -
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker, on relevance. The minister has form in question time of not answering questions. Are you going to deliver on the commitment to bring in tranche 2 of improvements to the act?
Mr FERGUSON - On the point of order, Madam Speaker, the member who has just resumed her seat has form in being disruptive. I invite the member, through you, Madam Speaker, to allow the minister to answer.
Madam SPEAKER - This is my ruling. If we keep using standing order 45 for interrupting debate it is going to prolong everything and we are going to have a distracted parliament. Please, that was not a point of order. You know my limitations and frustrations. It is the custom of the House that great latitude is allowed in debate. I do not like it but I have to put up with it and I suggest you all do too.
Ms O'CONNOR - On your ruling, Madam Speaker, perhaps you could direct ministers to answers questions truthfully and go to the substance of the question.
Madam SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, as you have just pointed out, I have no power, as is the practice of this House, to make a minister answer anything. If you ask long questions you get long answers. The best I can do is encourage the ministers, all of them, to stay on track.
Ms COURTNEY - Thank you, Madam Speaker. The Hodgman Liberal Government takes animal welfare very seriously. It was under my predecessor, it is under me and it will continue to be into the future.
Ms O'Connor - You are a disgrace. How hard can it be to answer a simple question?
Madam SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor.
Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for PRIMARY INDUSTRIES, Ms COURTNEY
In 2016 budget Estimates your predecessor gave a firm commitment to Ms Dawkins, our animal welfare spokesperson, that a second tranche of improvements to the Animal Welfare Act would be delivered. Is the Government still committed to tranche 2 of changes to the Animal Welfare Act given that only 12 of the 60 Animal Welfare Advisory Committee recommendations were adopted in the first set of changes?
Madam Speaker, seeing as we are quoting Hansard I will reflect on my comments from last week where, in response to questions from Ms O'Connor about further amendments, I said I will carefully consider that advice in due course noting that I am yet to receive it. A number of positions in AWAC are up for renewal. Once that process has gone through its course then, if and when appropriate, AWAC will continue to provide advice. I then went on with regard to your question about commitment to further strengthening the welfare act. I said I have committed and I will commit. As I said I have sought advice from the department on whether further amendments are required to improve animal welfare in Tasmania. I will assess recommendations that come before me.
To somehow pre-empt something that I have not seen is simply playing politics. We have a clear commitment to animal welfare. As I was outlining earlier my predecessor, Jeremy Rockliff, strengthened animal welfare, we increased accountability and professional standards for welfare officers, we took swift and appropriate action to include further amendments following investigation into the greyhound racing industry, we improved the powers of animal welfare officers to enter and search premises, collect evidence of an offence and better define aggravated cruelty. The regulations setting out standards for animal welfare for dogs took effect in January 2007 addressing concerns around puppy farms.
As I said last week during Estimates, I have made a commitment to seek advice from the department, and I am waiting on advice -
Ms O'Connor - About whether any new changes are needed.
Ms COURTNEY - How I can stand here and commit to making a change that I have not even seen is farcical.
This side of the House has clearly committed we will continue, as we have done historically, to maintain community expectations of animal welfare across Tasmania, whether that be in the racing industry, the livestock industry, or pets and family animals. Only this side of the Chamber has strengthened the act and we will continue to do anything necessary to make sure that Tasmanian animals have animal welfare standards that are reflective of the community.